Harris honored with AERA award for major research advances

By

Jennifer Priest Mitchell

Karen Harris, the Mary Emily Warner Professor in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, was honored with the 2016 Sylvia Scribner Award by the American Educational Research Association. The annual award recognizes a body of work that is significantly influencing thinking and research in the field of learning and instruction. In particular, the Scribner award honors research within the last 10 years that represents a major advancement in the understanding of learning and instruction.

“I’m excited for this award to be housed in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College because it speaks to the quality of research and education happening here," Harris said. "I came to ASU four years ago because of the level of commitment of the dean and faculty to outcomes for teachers and children. This award demonstrates the level of research occurring at ASU. There are many other faculty members who are doing this same quality of work and I am proud to be among them."

Harris has worked in education for more than 40 years, first as a general and special education teacher. Her research focuses on testing instructional approaches for classrooms, developing academic skills for writing among various student groups and testing professional development that results in improved writing instruction. She is co-author or co-editor of several books and more than 200 peer-reviewed publications. Her published research involves quantitative, qualitative and single-case design methods.

Harris developed the Self-Regulated Strategy Development model of strategies instruction and has researched the model for more than 30 years, with her ASU colleague and husband Steve Graham and other peers. SRSD, while most extensively researched in the area of writing, is also frequently applied and reviewed in reading, math and homework. Other researchers have reported on SRSD more than 100 times in various academic journals. Research and implementation of this model in schools is occurring in multiple countries, including England, Portugal, Greece, Spain, France and the Netherlands. SRSD consistently results in improvement of students’ quality of writing, knowledge of writing and attitudes toward writing.

Harris has also worked to validate a professional development model (adapted from the work of colleagues) for SRSD in writing for both general and special education teachers. She and her colleagues have published four randomized controlled trials to date from this work.

Implementation of SRSD in schools is rapidly increasing. Tennessee recently provided state-wide professional development using Harris' model at the elementary level. Several other states including New York, Massachusetts and Colorado are implementing practice-based professional development in SRSD.

“This award means a great deal to me,” said Harris, “because all of my career I have been devoted to improving instruction in complex domains, including writing. It is a real honor to receive this because writing is not a content area that is recognized often. These types of awards more commonly go to people in reading, math or science education. This is actually very good for the field of writing because it’s an area that needs more attention and more research.”